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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hummingbirds in January??

This may be surprising, but local birders have reported and photographed many Hummingbirds that at this point seem to have past being "late" migrants and may be over-wintering in our area.  

Here is a link to some wonderful Hummingbird photos taken on January 3: http://harolddavisphotography.smugmug.com/Birds/1-3-2013-Delaware-Hummingbirds/27390410_PpVGnb#!i=2303236947&k=87PZ6Kr

So why are there some hummingbirds that are overwintering in our area? There are many different answers, and not one that is touted as the exact science, we also have an influx of Western Hummingbirds that are typically not seen in the area.  Here are a few theories:

  • The "internal compass" of a western hummingbird leads it to overwinter in West Virginia in 2012, and then this hummingbird goes back out west to breed, it's young will now have that same internal compass that will make it continue to travel back to that same area in the winter.
  • The landscape has been altered by hardier blooming plants that seem to provide hummingbirds with food through the winter months. 

If you are interested in seeing whether or not a hummingbird is still hanging around your house the first thing to do is make sure that you are consistently providing fresh nectar in your feeder, it can be difficult to keep the feeder from freezing.  Some tips on keeping the feeder from freezing in the winter months are: 

  • Make a "feeder cozy" using wool socks, scarves, or some other fabric--if it is large enough, insert the foot warmer packs between the feeder and the cozy.
  • Invert your sugars to lower the freezing point of the solution: To invert ordinary table sugar, combine 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water, adding 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar to speed up the reaction. Heat the solution to a low boil on the stovetop in a heavy saucepan, washing down the sides of the pan with a little additional water to dissolve any stray sugar crystals. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature, which will rise above the boiling point of water as the water in it boils away. Once it reaches 230° F., remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool, then pour it into a clean jar, pop on the lid, and store in the refrigerator. Substitute invert syrup for no more than half of the sugar in your feeder solution and reduce the water slightly (by about 2 tablespoons per cup) to compensate for the water in the syrup.
  • Use Christmas lights, or LED lights to wrap around the feeder to add heat.

Good luck with watching Hummingbirds in the winter! Also it is key to remember that our most common Hummingbird is the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, you will see other hummingbirds so attempt to photograph them or take careful note to help with ID.  Hummingbirds are sometimes difficult to ID without being caught and banded, but taking clear photographs and sending them along to very experienced birders is a good way to start.

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